This is a provocative essay which I chanced upon in Singaporeans for Democracy. You can read the whole essay here. Written by Mr Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, the essay essentially highlights the problems of being a Malay MP under the PAP government – how do you walk on the political tightrope, with competing and almost contradictory pressures from the PAP, National interests, and the Malay community? Its a very sad reality that as much as the government says it represents the ideals of the people, somehow it is usually at the expense of many, even whole communities for that matter.
I knew about the controversy surrounding the Compulsory National Schooling and how it threatened the existence of the Madrasahs. What I did not know was this:
“What was notable in the madrasah/ Compulsory National Schooling (CNS) issue was the way the Malay MPs acted. Mr Maidin Packer, then Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Education, supported the PAP’s position for the closure of madrasahs. Zainul Abidin Rasheed, then Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a more polished politician, said that he has not made up his mind. Abdullah Tarmugi, then Minister of Community Development and Sports and Minister in charge of Muslim Affairs and his other colleagues were quiet. This despite the community submitting a petition with over 33,000 signatures. This despite the PAP government’s arguments debated in Cyber Ummah and with all its flaws shown. “
In the ensuing debate surrounding the madrasah issue, what was soon revealed were the fallacies of their arguments, ultimately of how they were placed in a position of impossibility. I believe this soon led to a new type of Malay leadership where, rather than make public appeals on behalf of the community, such leaders were encouraged to use closed door discussions with high ranking Ministers to state their cause. Some argue this is a more effective method but at the cost of political accountbility, personal freedom and ultimately the respect of the Malay community themselves.
“Throughout the issues of SAF, madrasah, discrimination, tudung, the Malay MPs have not only failed to protect the interest of the community they were supposed to lead, they were at the forefront in attacking the community.”
How does one be a community leader, but not make public appeals on behalf of their community? How does one justify the party’s position which compromises the community’s standing in the society? Arguments that the madrasahs were not on par with the mainstream schools is unnecessary, noting the extra religious subjects plus the complexity of the subjects itself. And the fact is that the madrasahs were improving during the 1990s.
I never knew the book by Dr Lily Zubaidah Rahim (She’s a doctor! I apologise for calling her a Ms all this while. Please forgive me Dr Lily!) created such a controversy that forced the then PM Goh to respond. And his flimsy arguments and blatant euphemisms ultimately showed how true Dr Lily Zubaidah Rahim was. And Mr Abdullah Tarmugi even contradicted his statement, highlighting the fact that the Malays were lagging behind (25% of 12000 workers retrenched in 1998 were Malays!).
“But the Malay MPs cannot be taken as the leaders of the community. First, they were not voted into parliament by the Malays alone. Second, those who voted for them did not do so because they wanted the interest of the Malays to be protected. Third, they have failed to protect the community’s interest.”
I didn’t realise how true he was until I read this. And its very true. Forcing Malays as part of the GRCs does not mean we are voting for the Malays per se. And saying that this is to ensure the continued Malay representation is utter bullshit and slap to all our (Malay) faces. The reason on why Mr Yatiman Yusof was elected was particularly hilarious:
“They voted for him so that he could take care of the gardens and drainage in Tampines. “
Ha! I am highly amused. What is the standing of the Malay MPs today? Above anything else, they seem more reactive towards proclamations of high ranking Ministers rather than take the initiative to make public appeals on behalf of the community. “Oh the Minister says we have a high divorce rate and dysfunctional families. Lets do something about it!”
All for the sake of peace and stability? I don’t think so. As Mr Zulkifli emphasized, there is definitely ulterior motives involved, all for the sake of entrenching the almost God-like powers of the government.
People keep asking me whether I want to be a politician. After reading this, do you think it is wise?